Nonstick pans have become incredibly popular in the home kitchen. In fact, they account for more than half of pan sales in the U.S. People often refer to nonstick coatings as "Teflon," since DuPont's Teflon technology was the first type of nonstick coating. However, Teflon remains a trademarked brand name, and it refers only to a specific company's nonstick products. The idea behind Teflon and all subsequent nonstick coatings is to protect your pan with one or more layers of a resin to keep food from sticking to the pan.
Because the coating is what protects the pan, it's important not to destroy it during cooking or cleaning. Although the layer might be thick enough to withstand metal utensils when you cook, you're still better off using plastic or wood. When cleaning, avoid using steel wool or other abrasive materials. Instead, clean using warm water, dish soap and a nylon sponge, and clean by hand as opposed to in the dishwasher. If cooking oils leave a residue on your pan, you can get it off by filling the pan with water and a half-cup of vinegar. You then bring the mixture to a boil and watch the residue float up. Catch the residue with a paper towel and then wash the pan as usual.
To properly maintain nonstick pans, you should preseason them before use. Rub some oil or butter into the pan itself to protect it instead of just pouring oil in and letting the food absorb it. When you store your nonstick pans, try to avoid nesting them, since one pan's bottom may scratch the surface of the next one. Put a napkin or paper towel between them if they must nest. And avoid very high heat when cooking with nonstick pans, since it can crack the coating. Despite concerns that broken nonstick coatings cause cancer, research has shown that the levels of perfluorooctanoic acid released by damaged nonstick coatings aren't harmful to humans.